Widespread criticism after 16 workers killed, dozens injured in nickel smelter blast

CNN Indonesia – December 26, 2023
Workers try to extinguish fire following explosion at PT ITSS – December 24, 2023 (screenshot)

Jakarta – The PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) has been flooded with criticism after a nickel smelter furnace belonging to PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) exploded killing 16 workers and injuring dozens more.

One of the criticisms came from Morowali IMIP Labour Solidarity. "[We] condemn the company and the state which has been negligent in providing and ensuring safety infrastructure and facilities and occupational safety for works at the company", read a press release by the labour group on Tuesday December 26.

Morowali IMIP Labour Solidarity is an alliance of national level trade union representatives and non-government organisations that focus on labour issues.

They also said that PT IMIP applies labour practices that tend to violate legislation.

This includes using labour brokers because they transfer workers who apply to other companies under PT IMIP, the transfer workers without prior agreement and the use of contract labour.

"This illustrates that structurally smelter companies such as PT ITSS and PT IMIP as the regional management have allowed labour practices that are below safety standards, neglecting workers' rights to occupational health and safety (K3)", said the group.

They also explained that the PT IMIP industrial park had been negligent in providing occupation health and safety facilities and infrastructure.

This situation was reflected after several of the victims that were killed were trapped in the vortex of fire because there was no evacuation route.

Several workers were also forced to jump from the third floor resulting in serious injuries and broken bones with some vomiting blood.

In addition to this, the lack of adequate medical transportation vehicles also worsened the situation because workers suffering minor and serious injuries had to be transported using a sand truck.

Criticism about occupation health and safety also came from the Indonesian Association of Trade Unions (ASPEK).

ASPEK Indonesia President Mirah Sumirat said that the accident at PT ITSS was a "humanitarian tragedy" which requires serious attention from the government.

Sumirat said that "it is strongly suspected that there were K3 violations at PT ITSS resulting in the smelter furnace explosion".

He is calling on the PT ITSS management to be legally investigated and that the company be temporarily closed so that a thorough investigation can be carried out.

Sumirat also touched on the issue of weak monitoring of occupational health and safety in Indonesia.

"[This] is [one of] the impacts of facilitating investment that is made all too easy by the Omnibus Law on Job Creation", he said.

Weak monitoring and the lack of labor supervisors, continued Sumirat, is a classic problem that has never been resolved by the government.

ASPEK Indonesia is calling on the Ministry of Labour to take labour supervision seriously, including the issue of implementing occupational health and safety standards in all companies in Indonesia.

Similar criticisms were also made by Labour Party President Said Iqbal.

"Because K3 issues often occur, we are also asking that the company be prosecuted. Such case often occur, this shows that it is not just because of negligence, but allegedly due to omission", said Iqbal said in an official release on Sunday December 24.

Furthermore, Iqbal emphasised that the implementation of occupational health and safety must be fully ensured. He also suggested that parties or companies that violate these standards must be subject to severe sanctions. (isa/pua)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ramai-ramai Kritik Keras Ledakan di PT ITSS yang Tewaskan 16 Orang".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20231226121720-20-1041816/ramai-ramai-kritik-keras-ledakan-di-pt-itss-yang-tewaskan-16-orang